Do you have knee pain when you run? The iliotibial band, commonly known as the IT Band, is a tendonous and fascial band that originates on the hipbone, travels down the outside of the leg and attaches to the top of the lower leg bone (the tibia). Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints, and provides support and protection. Think of fascia as shrink-wrap for your muscles! Once the shrink-wrap becomes tight, it tends to stay tight.
This tightness causes pain in the hip and knee area for runners. Usually, poor biomechanics or muscle imbalances contribute to IT pain. When the IT band shortens, the fascial band pulls the knee cap out of alignment, leading to inflammation in the joint and pain when bending the knee. This injury, known as IT band syndrome or runner's knee, is more common in women than men, most likely due to the wider female pelvis.
The good news? There are lots of ways to lessen IT band syndrome and ward off future problems: regular stretching, foam rolling (or self myofacial release), massage and icing. Massage promotes blood flow to the affected area and helps to minimize scar tissue formation. Treat yourself to a professional massage every once and while, but you can also do it yourself with a foam roller or massage stick anytime.
To help avoid knee pain and IT band injury, keep this thick band of fascia flexible, especially when you increase intensity and/or weekly mileage. Below is one of our favorite at-home ways to keep our IT bands healthy. We recommend that also you foam roll other major muscles groups invovled in running (we will highlight them throughout the month).
How to foam roll your IT Band:
Instructions: Lie on your side with the foam roller perpendicular to your body and below your hip. Bring the top leg in front of you and use it as leverage. Place your hands on the other side of the foam roller. Slowly begin to roll the foam roller down your leg, stopping just above the knee cap. As the roller moves down your leg, stop every 1-2 inches and rock your hips forward and backwards over the foam roller to release tension. Be gentle and breathe!